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Tea for your tweet?

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BOS Ice Tea has partnered with Cow Africa, a digital marketing, brand activation and PR company, to introduce a Twitter-activated vending machine.

According to Cow Africa, the machine, currently situated at Wembley Square, in Cape Town, is a world first.

Ilse Fourie, account executive at Cow Africa, says the machine, dubbed Bev, first appeared at this year's Design Indaba, where it was activated by tokens. She says the machine has since been adjusted to respond to tweets.

BOS co-founder Grant Rushmere says that, after the Design Indaba, the next step was to link the real-world sampling machine to the virtual world. The company says the machine dispenses a free can of BOS Ice Tea when tweets are posted with a unique hashtag. To activate the machine, users must tag @Bos and include the hashtag '#BosTweet4T'.

According to BOS, the machine will be in Cape Town until 22 June and the company will be tracking tweets and selecting winners from people using the hashtag while the campaign is in action.

Cow Africa says that when the campaign was initially rolled out, the machine used geolocation settings and only dispensed cans of BOS Ice Tea when the tweets originated near the machine. However, the company says, these settings have since been deactivated, because most people do not have geolocation settings active on their Twitter accounts.

According to the company, the machine now registers and responds to any tweets with the hashtag. Cow Africa says that while people who are not near the machine can activate it by tweeting the hashtag, this encourages people to dispense cans as gifts to other people.

Cow Africa says it conceptualised the machine, while UK-based social media agency RAAK worked on the machine's Twitter integration. The company explains that the machine connects to the Twitter Streaming API and registers the configured hashtag as a filter. The machine dispenses a can of BOS Ice Tea when it registers the hashtag.

According to Cow Africa, the machine stores the Twitter handle of any account that uses the hashtag and only dispenses one can per account. The company adds that the number of cans dispensed is also regulated because there is a time limit between dispensing cans, and the machine will not dispense a can if the last can dispensed has not been collected.

Melissa Attree, social media strategist at Cerebra, says the campaign is likely to get a lot of publicity. “It's a great concept that will get people talking, and it encourages brands to push the possibilities with digital and 'real-life' campaigns,” she says, adding that the novelty factor alone will ensure people try it out.

“This concept hasn't been executed in SA before - it's a great way of putting the product in people's hands,” she says.

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